The PhotoBook Journal

March 19, 2016

Chris Killip – In Flagrante Two


Copyright 2015 (2016) Chris Killip

Photographer: Christopher David “Chris” Killip    (born; Douglas, Isle of Man, resides Boston, MA, USA)

Publisher: Steidl Verlag (Germany)

Essays: the book is without any essays, but does include an index of photographs at the conclusion.

Text: English

Hardcover book with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color lithography, with index of photographs, printed in Germany

Photobook designer: Chris Killip and Victor Balko

Notes: In Flagrante Two is Steidl’s edition of Killip’s original photobook In Flagrante, which was a softcover book published in 1988 by Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd. Killip is investigating the working class neighborhood of northeast England over the duration of 1973 to 1985, a time of unrelenting economic troubles for the UK. Regretfully I have not have a copy of the original 1988 In Flagrante, but the frequent criticism of this first edition was that the horizontal two page spread design and printing lost some of the photographic content within the gutter. This large Steidl edition has each photographic image on one entire page, one printed page per spread and thus all of the photographic content is intact.

The photographs are very gray and gritty, the documentary style portrays an industrial area in a declining condition; an opening photograph of the Wallsend housing in Tyneside, cloaked in snow and at the conclusion of the book, the same advantage point during the demolition of this same housing track in Wallsend, with the bricks and rubbish littering the lane, similar to resulting the fall of Humpty Dumpty, who could not be put back together again by all of the King’s men. I should note that when corresponding with Killip, he revealed that the later photograph of the Wallsend housing demolition is one of three images that are new to the Steidl edition, which for me, makes this edition all that more compelling as a narrative of this time and place. I also note that Killip frequently photographed children who seem happy and oblivious to their dire surroundings, while the older youth and young adults appear to become very aware of their situation.

In my naivety of my English cousins, I had though In Flagrante was a reference to a region or place in northern England. Following up with Killip, he states that his book’s title is extracted from the term “In Flagrante Delicto”, a legal term meaning “caught in the act” in a sexual connotation, while In Flagrante is also caught in the act, but without a sexual connotation.

I had also read that many of the photographs of In Flagrante were made by Killip with a 4”x5”, but there was a spontaneity to the images that did not seemed to correspond to a static viewpoint of a view camera (my 4”x5” equipment assumption) on a tripod. In response to my question regarding the camera equipment he used, Killip stated that he mainly used a Linhof Technica 4”x5” hand-held which was mixed with 6×7 roll film taken on a Plaubel.

As to my question as to the overlap of his Seacoal images that are also included in In Flagrante, he responded; “I did the In Flagrante book a longtime before the Seacoal book and the Seacoal images that are in In Flagrante just seemed to fit.

Killip also states “In Flagrante Two is strident in its belief in the primacy of the photograph, embracing ambiguities and contradictions in an unadorned narrative sequence devoid of text.”

Other Chris Killip photobooks featured on The PhotoBook: Seacoal












August 10, 2012

Chris Killip – Seacoal

Filed under: Book Publications, Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:14 pm

Copyright Chris Killip 2011 published by Steidl and GwinZegal

During an intermittent period of fourteen months spanning 1983 and 1984 Chris Killip photographed a small hardworking but tight-knit community located on the Northeastern coast of the United Kingdom. His subjects are the families and individuals who were making their living collecting and selling the coal found on a shore line. The coal that is found is called seacoal as if it was thought to be coal arising from the sea. Killip’s project lay dormant until recently resurrected and developed into a published photobook.

To establish the back story Killip elegantly states in his introduction “When I first saw the beach at Lynemouth in January 1976, I recognized the industry above it but nothing else. The beach beneath me was full of activity with horses and carts backed into the sea. Men were standing in the sea next to the carts, using small wire nets attached to poles to fish out the coal from the water beneath them. The place confounded time; here the Middle Ages and the twentieth century intertwined.”

This is a narrative of a small unique community in which the work being performed is also intertwined with the lifestyle of those who are working. Killip investigates the type of work while creating portraits of those who perform the work and the activities of those working. Thus this is an investigation into the identity of those who have chosen this lifestyle.

Killip effectively sets the stage of this community that is living in the shadows of the large industrial plant that consumes their efforts of fighting with the sea. In many photographs there is a gray shadowy presence in the background with an occasional tall smoke stack looming on the horizon. The natural coal that is found on the coast is in close proximity of the coal-burning facility in the background lurking, perhaps omnipresent, necessary environmental evil which the results of the burning coal fall upon them. Killip also makes it evident that living on this coastal beach is not all sunny days with umbrella drinks in hand with the evident piles of litter, rubbish, discards and abandoned vehicles surrounding the trailers, motor homes and caravans.

Killip captures the work in progress that hints at the amount of labor that is involved with horse-drawn and manual operated carts, difficult work amidst bleak and desolate living conditions. Similar to farmers these individuals not only perform their necessary wage earning work it also includes the necessary maintenance of the equipment, homes, vehicles and animals. He captures the children who appear to be making the most of the current conditions; smiling and performing for the photographer’s lens and even so, reveal something about themselves in the process.

Killip’s project was photographed in a documentary style using a classic black and white format. This project reveals Killip’s mastery of the black & white medium with beautiful range of mid-range values and his ability to establish personal relationships that allow him to intimately connect with his subjects and discerning sensibilities to compose beautiful, yet subtle photographic images. As a reader we sense that this is narrative is similar in style to a reporter’s story but realize that we are provided many tantalizing clues and yet not the entire story.

This book as an object has a contemporary deign and layout that provides a timeless look to the photographs. In my first reading of just the photographs I was not aware that this body of work is over thirty years old. This book also reflects a definite expertise of Steidl to publish really beautifully printed black & white photographic books.

Current status of this site: The seacoal camp has been leveled and landscaped and is now an approved caravan site for Travellers. The coal mine is gone and with it the seacoal.

by Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook

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